Student Stories: Alex Urbanski

Alex Urbanski

Major: Physics

Ever since he was a child, Alex Urbanski has dreamed of starting his own business.

“I’ve always loved creating and been very curious about our world,” he said. “Throughout my childhood, I filled thousands of pages of notebooks with inventions and business ideas.”

However, he graduated from high school with a low GPA and poor test scores, which limited his options for college.

“I was an undisciplined high school student and regret not taking advantage of the academic opportunities I had access to,” he said. “I was accepted to a small school in Florida, but I wanted to be in an environment with hard-working, creative and like-minded individuals. I made a list of seven schools where I thought I could find this environment, but none had an acceptance rate over 20%. I set the goal of getting into one of these schools via College of DuPage. I viewed COD as a second chance on life, and it was financially feasible for my family.”

Learning Commons

At COD, Urbanski discovered faculty members who supported his determination to succeed. For example, he realized that he needed an A in both Calculus 1 and 2 to transfer. Even though he never took trigonometry in high school, he enrolled in Calculus 1—and was lost on the first day.

“I decided to take advantage of the free math help at the Learning Commons and spent several hours with a tutor that night,” he said. “The tutors are patient, understanding and amazing at teaching advanced mathematics concepts in layman terms. My calculus professor, Caroline Soo, went out of her way to meet with me outside of class and office hours to provide extra support. All of my professors at COD were willing to go above and beyond to ensure students understood the content.”

Honors Program

Because he never took an honors or AP course in high school, he was grateful to have the opportunity of participating in the Honors Program at COD. He even presented “Artificial Morality” at the HCIR (Honors Council of the Illinois Region) Student Symposium.

“The goal of my presentation was to explain how AI (artificial intelligence) is capable of being immoral, then articulate how AI researchers and philosophers are attempting to avoid AI harm by implementing artificial morality into existing algorithms and AI models,” he said. “I had such an amazing time talking about AI ethics with fellow undergrads and philosophy professors from neighboring universities, and I’m sure adding this experience to my resume has helped create more opportunities for me.”

All of my professors at COD were willing to go above and beyond to ensure students understood the content.

Alex Urbanski

Urbanski also found a group of like-minded, hard-working students through the Engineering Club, Honors Program and Learning Commons.  

“We motivated each other to perform better academically and helped one another with technical projects we pursued outside of school,” he said. “We all contributed value to each other’s lives, and we wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for COD’s extracurricular activities.”

His hard work at COD paid off earlier than expected when he transferred to Boston University after three semesters. Urbanski also never gave up on his dream of starting a business, which led to his decision of a major in physics and applied mathematics with a minor in computer science.

“Studying physics and mathematics is providing me with the creative problem-solving framework necessary to answer fascinating technical questions about our world and ultimately bring my ideas to life,” he said. “Physics teaches you to break down complex problems to known principles of the universe and creatively identify relationships. After reading a physics problem, my first thought is, ‘How the heck am I going to solve this one?’ I’ll usually begin in a state of panic, but then I slowly break it down, identify the necessary relationships and then arrive at a solution—after failing many times. I view learning to persist through failure and creatively solving problems as essential life skills.”

Urbanski also is gaining practical experience through summer internships. In 2022, he conducted research with the startup Phase3D at Argonne National Laboratory. In 2023, he is working with a group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to partner with the Caribbean Science Foundation and create a STEM learning experience. Urbanski will travel to Barbados as a teaching assistant and work with the top 20 high school students in the Caribbean.

While still determining his career goals and business opportunities, Urbanski has focused on his purpose in life.

“I hope to expand the bounds of human consciousness and knowledge. To do this, I will always ensure I am spending a portion of my time volunteering to teach others and attempting to improve our education system,” he said. “I also want to spend my time answering fascinating technical questions that involve applying my mathematics, physics and computer science knowledge. Ideally the answers to these questions will have a net positive impact on humanity and help minimize suffering in some way.”

Urbanski believes students don’t sacrifice anything by attending COD.

“I was worried that it would be more difficult to make friends,” he said. “My worries ended up being quite illogical. COD has an abundance of social events and an amazing, diverse community. I also feel that the instruction is better at COD than at most universities. The class sizes are very small, the professors are incredibly supportive and COD provides many learning resources outside of the classroom. Taking STEM classes at COD has been one of the most valuable learning experiences in my lifetime.”

Learn more about the Physics program at College of DuPage

COD Physics Success Stories

Joe Bernstein

"I benefited greatly from the small class sizes and personal contact with the faculty. Direct interaction with the faculty without going through teaching assistants was especially important." - Joe Bernstein

Joe's COD Story

COD Physics Success Stories

Andrew Krall

"If I can’t go to Mars or work on a rover that goes to Mars, I want to save the earth,” he said. “It’s a cultural thing with my generation. My friends and I always talk about what we can do to help the planet." - Andrew Krall

Andrew's COD Story